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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

PR Disasters: How to Avoid Them

As influencer marketing experts can tell you, since the rise of online influencers and social media, effective handling of public relations efforts has become even more important to organizations’ brands and bottom line. As all remain relatively new areas of exploration for enterprises and PR pros alike, here are several ways to minimize mistakes associated with outreach efforts. Each can help you more easily and enjoyably connect with influencers, paint a better picture of your business, and tell your story in a more effective manner.

Don’t Send Generic Responses 

“Not listening [is a mistake.] We’re so set on telling clients what we think, we often forget to listen. I mean “really” listen.” – Arik Hanson 

One of the most common and avoidable mistakes PR pros make (when dealing with online influencers, influencer marketing experts, or otherwise) is to provide a general or one-size-fits-all response to a specific question or concern. While sticking to the company line is important, all answers should be tailored to sound personal, conversational and individual in nature, and directly address the issue that is being raised.

Wooden or cookie-cutter responses to direct questions show a disconnect between conversation participants – a major gaffe online, where conversations are more casual, albeit still professional – that is often more suspicious or troubling than the issue that was raised in the first place. It also shows that staff are not placing a premium on others’ opinions, or truly listening and responding to questions either from influencers, stockholders, media, customers or other members of the general public that can damage their public perception. Since so many organizations make this error, it bears reminding: If you take the time to really listen, influencers will recognizing this, and show you added respect in return.

Understand Your Target Audience

“Reality must take precedent over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard P. Feynman

Failure to understand your target audience, their needs, and what motivates them can lead to a major disconnect, causing influencers’ opinions of individual and brand to drop, because all appear out of step. Before pitching or promoting to influencers of every kind, make sure your message, content and offer fit the situation or audience. Occasionally, miscommunications are unavoidable, depending on the information being sent or interpreted. But once it is realized that the message isn’t connecting, or audience responding differently than expected, an appropriate response should be researched and delivered quickly in reaction.

Consistently Follow Up

“[Too often, PR pros are] stuck in their ways. That covers only dong things the “tried and true” way and not listening.” – Heather Whaling 

Poor follow-up from PR pros is often a symptom of an overworked or distracted staff. But when dealing with influencers – many of whom are no doubt equally busy and overwhelmed, and are often forced to sift through dozens of pitches daily – it’s important to be dutiful, diligent and reliable when it comes to responding and meeting their needs. Since this issue is more systematic, the solution is to set aside time to go over daily communications and requests on a regular basis and make sure to follow up on every front as soon as practical. If there is no new information to provide, or you’re still determining whether a request can be fulfilled, the response should be the truth – it’s OK to tell them “Still working on it – I’ll be back in touch with you as soon as we hear more.”

Act in Everyone’s Best Interests

When you only reach out to influencers or influencer marketing experts (or customers in general for that matter) when you want something, focus solely on the organization’s needs, or ignore requests except when they benefit you organization, it sends a poor message. Likewise, doing so can often give the impression that the business is aloof or unresponsive – or worse, grasping and self-centered. Avoid this image, as it isolates the business from existing customers and potential clients, and detracts from relationships with influencers.

Even if your company can’t always benefit immediately from the exchange, understand that you are investing in relationships (both personal and professional) the same as you would in real-life – and with influential parties. All may prove quick to anger or take offense when a company doesn’t respond to their needs, or acts in a self-centered manner, causing you to quickly burn through goodwill. (Assuming it’s even been accrued in advance through prior positive interactions.) And the more you chip away at the foundation of any structure, the likelier it is to collapse. Instead, work to become a trusted and valued partner, and aid influencers and audiences even when it doesn’t provide direct gains – from a long-term standpoint, you may be surprised at the dividends gained.

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